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OU Health Sciences Center Receives $5 Million Federal Grant to Broaden COVID-19 Testing Statewide

Published: Friday, December 11, 2020

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center has been awarded a $5 million federal grant supplement to deploy COVID-19 testing sites in underserved and rural areas of the state, and to work with primary care clinics across Oklahoma to test more patients as the pandemic enters the winter months.

The supplement to the Oklahoma Shared Clinical and Translational Resources grant is from the National Institutes of Health and will leverage the OU Health Sciences Center's extensive network of relationships and partners throughout Oklahoma. As cases of COVID-19 surge in Oklahoma, quick and accessible testing is more important than ever, said family physician Steven Crawford, M.D., Senior Associate Dean at the OU College of Medicine.

"This grant, and the outreach it will allow us to do, is especially important in Oklahoma right now as more and more people are being infected by COVID-19, and as we enter the traditional season of flu and other respiratory illnesses," Crawford said. "Increased testing will play a critical role in slowing the spread of this coronavirus, and it is important that we differentiate COVID-19 infections from the flu and other respiratory infections."

For one component of the project, the OU Health Sciences Center is partnering with the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Public Health Institute of Oklahoma to hold approximately 250 mobile testing events across Oklahoma, in areas where testing has not been widely available. Other partners in the effort include the Latino Community Development Agency, the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board, the Chickasaw Nation, County Health Improvement Organizations, and the Oklahoma Primary Healthcare Improvement Cooperative.
Another component of the grant is to work with up to 50 primary care clinics across Oklahoma so that they can immediately test for COVID-19 in their practices. The grant will provide testing materials and personal protective equipment, along with any assistance needed for clinic personnel to integrate the process into the ongoing demands of their daily work.
"By increasing rapid testing opportunities across the state, we hope that more people are able to be tested," said Timothy VanWagoner, Ph.D., administrative director of the Oklahoma Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the OU Health Sciences Center program directing the grant. "Along with testing efforts, we are conducting surveys - of healthcare providers and people who get tested -- to gain insight into the testing barriers that may exist for various populations of people. For example, we know many people cannot afford to take off work for days while they wait for results of the test.
"We are part of the national Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics - Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) consortium trying to better understand what affects a person's acceptance of testing, which will also be important when vaccines are available," VanWagoner added. "Furthermore, that data will also help us respond more quickly and efficiently in the future if another pandemic occurs."